Richard is a regular photography magazine contributor, has written content for wildlife, science and adventure channel Eden TV, runs photographic workshops and is a contributor to the prestigious Remembering Elephants book – hailed as a 'Live Aid' for wildlife photographers, the books aim is to raise funds to fight elephant poaching, with top names in the field donating images. Richard has also published his own ebook 'Back Garden Safari', to help show others that creative images can be taken at home, not just by travelling the world.

How has your career progressed?

I started taking pictures after leaving school, where I'd always enjoyed art and design, then in 2000 I went on holiday to Canada, photographed just about everything I saw, and realised that I really enjoyed it. Wildlife imaging felt like a natural progression – I'd grown up watching BBC wildlife documentaries and they'd been a huge influence on me. Although I'm ashamed to say that for many years I was something of a weekend/fair-weather photographer, in the last five years it's something I've seriously pursued, although it's only fairly recently that it's become full time. I've been lucky in that I was able to work 50% of my time as a photographer and 50% of my time for Sky News doing graphics, which gave me an income while my photography career was starting.More recently I've been getting into workshops, usually teaming up with other friends in the business as I think collaboration is a very powerful thing.

How would you describe your style?

The 13 years I worked for Sky News doing graphics really went hand in hand with my approach to photography. I've always been about nice visuals – from photos, to the way things are laid out on a page or even how a room is decorated. As my style matures, I find myself increasingly drawn to how I use light, how it plays on the subject. And as my career progresses, I find I'm shooting less but shooting smarter, because I'm thinking more about what I want to achieve. I'm very critical of my own work, and always have been. I think people who are naturally artistic have this very self-critical thing going on, and in a way it helps keep you grounded.

Do you have a favourite image?

I've several images that really stick out for me with one of my latest favourites being that of an urban fox titled 'Shadow Walker'. It's the image that won European Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the Urban category of Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2015. It was taken at home, in my garden, which gives me a strong connection to the shot. Furthermore, it's very unique in that it's one of the very few wildlife photo's I can think of that doesn't technically contain any wildlife in the frame itself! Before that, the other image that is most associated to me has to be another fox image called 'Snow 'Snow Pounce', which was awarded in the 2012 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year. It was shot in Yellowstone, which was an amazing experience in itself, and to have that image come out of it… Yet I almost deleted it at the time. I captured a sequence of the fox leaping for its prey, and because it was half out of the frame in this shot I really wasn't too sure about it. I only decided to keep it as it was quite cool having the entire leap documented. I thought it would be an image most people would dismiss, but actually most love it.

Most challenging shoot?

Everything about wildlife photography is challenging, as animals rarely do what you want them to, but one subject that stands out for me is probably the waxwing. It migrates to the UK in winter but because it doesn't come down south – I'm based in Surrey – in big numbers, I've driven hundreds of miles around the country trying to capture it but never managed. Then two years ago waxwings came to a front garden, outside a bus stop on a busy high street, just a couple of miles from my house. I got some funny looks setting up my tripod in the bus shelter…

Is there any species you particularly prefer to photograph?

I've always favoured mammals over birds (although if I am shooting birds, I prefer raptors and owls to small species). With mammals, the bigger the better. I particularly like photographing African big cats. When you're faced with one and it's staring at you, you sometimes need to step back, put the camera down and soak it all it in, otherwise you can end up missing the experience and go home with a card full of pictures but no clear recollection of where you've been. But I always tell others that what is more important is the way you photograph something, not what you're photographing.

How does your workload split between work for yourself and commissions?

I rarely do commissions, I've had a couple of small ones but I wouldn't want them to be my main thing, as it would take the fun out of it if I had to shoot all the time for someone else rather than myself. I get more interest in the work I've already taken, which suits me as it means I'm shooting more of what I want. That doesn't always mean the photos I like are liked though. As an example, if I put a picture of something cute on Facebook, loads of people will like it, but post something a bit more artistic and it gets nowhere as many likes, which is frustrating. It's the same with commercial work – wildlife images that sell easily are the standard straightforward ones, but for me it goes back to creativity and freedom of expression.

Have you always been a Nikon man?

Yes, right from the beginning.When I was first starting out, I borrowed an old manual Nikon film camera and progressed from there. It also helped that I had a friend who was into photography and used Nikon, and I wanted to borrow his lenses, so I got an F80 film camera. Six months later I switched to the D100, and I've steadily upgraded my way through the DSLR range ever since. I've been using two D810's for a while now – prior to that my main camera was the D800 – and I also had a D4. Tucked away in my camera bag is also a D3200 which was a more recent purchase solely for use in a camera trap set-up.

The main reasons I switched from the D800 to the D810 were because I didn't want an anti-aliasing filter – I wanted to get my shots as sharp as I could; and also the fact that the shutter on the D810 is so much quieter. That is really important with wildlife; to have that with all the bells and whistles of a top-end camera is amazing. I try not to push the ISO higher than ISO 3200, to ensure the best dynamic range. That being said, I'd rather a noisy image than no image at all.

Which lenses do you use?

I upgraded to the new 400mm f/2.8E FL from the old 600mm VR. It's a weight and size thing; although I loved it, the old 600mm was very big, heavy and awkward to carry around. I damaged the cartilage in my knee a while back, so weight is a big issue. I borrowed the 400mm for a trial, and it's become my current baby. Aside from the weight, I was also hugely impressed with how versatile it is, working so well with teleconverters, so there is no real loss switching to a lens with less native focal length. I also love the 18-35mm G – it's a brilliant little lens. OK, it's not pro grade, but the quality is spot-on at f/8, and because it's a wide-angle, stopping it down isn't an issue. It's so small and compact that it's very easy to put in your bag. I've also got the the 50mm f/1.4. the two main teleconverters and a 70-200mm VRII. I went through a bit of an equipment transition over the previous year or so. As I've developed my style I've realised there were focal lengths, and lenses, I simply wasn't using. Optics are getting better all the time; newer versions are ever better, and tend to be lighter, too. So my kit list is getting smaller as I mature into what I'm doing. I'm no longer so worried about what I've got – it's more about how I'm using it. It's amazing how versatile even one lens can be. That said, although it's quite a niche optic, I've always had a soft spot for the 200mm f/2, and I've been hugely impressed with the recent 300mm f/4E PF.

Is there any such thing as a ‘typical' working day, week or month?

Although many people assume that, as a wildlife photographer, I spend most of my days travelling, I actually spend a lot of time at the computer. I do quite a bit of writing for magazines and websites, I do a lot of social media, website development, photo editing and of course wrote a substantial ebook, which was a far bigger under taking than I had anticipated. It also depends what else I have on, in early 2016 I found myself visiting Spain, Greece, Sri-Lanka and Africa twice, all before the end of March. But such extensive travel in a short time is rare and it's important to me that I balance my home life with my professional one. But add it all up and it certainly means there's variety in my life, and that's a good thing.

What would be your dream assignment?

It's a cliché, but it would have to be something for National Geographic. I'd also love to spend a month in one location, on my own, to really concentrate on one particular subject or area. I've always wanted to go to Alaska to photograph bears and eagles – I know it's been done, but I want to experience it for myself.

Do you have a photography confession to make? (We promise we won’t tell…!)

I nearly gave up in 2008-9 – there came a point where I didn't pick up a camera for a year. I hadn't taken anything decent for a long time, I wasn't as technically accomplished as I am now, my inspiration was low and hanging up the camera became a hard habit to break. Then a photographer friend invited me to Marwell Zoo in Winchester for the day. With the animals right in front of me, it was so easy to shoot there and I got some images I really liked. It made me realise that wildlife photography was what I wanted to be doing. That was kind of the light-bulb moment I needed to be begin turning what I deemed before as a hobby into being a part of who I am.

How did you feel when you were asked to contribute to the Remembering Elephants book?

It was lovely to be asked to submit an image. I looked at the list of names that have been asked to contribute, including Frans Lanting, Art Wolfe and David Lloyd, and aside from the satisfaction of having a picture in a book alongside them, it's raising money and awareness for a really good cause. It's amazing how quickly it's been successful, and it's heartwarming to see so many people taking the cause on board.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Don't judge your own success by other people's. Other people have things going wrong all the time, but you only hear about their successes. So do it for yourself, because you want to be taking photos, because you want to be creative. And don't be put off by the fact that something has been photographed already – if you did that, you'd never shoot anything! It's all about experiencing things for yourself and not trying to please others.